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Navigating the workplace of the future

João Fernandes, founder and CEO of BuzzStreets, explains how the combination of indoor mapping and navigation can transform the customer experience and business efficiency

Office block
Office block

You have a client meeting in Chicago at 11am and you’re running late. Fortunately, your AI assistant has already ordered you a self-driving taxi to take you to the airport. Once there, you breeze straight through security and are directed to the correct gate, despite a recent change. Your flight boards and a couple of hours later you disembark, hop in another self-driving taxi and are navigated to the meeting room within the client’s offices.

This is not a particularly futuristic vision; it’s merely the combination of a range of technologies already coming to maturity, including AI assistants, self-driving taxis, tech-enabled airport security, real-time indoor navigation and supersonic aircraft.

Outdoor navigation technology matured years ago, and today we all walk around with a detailed map of the world in our pockets. But what happens when you enter a building? The navigation drops out. That’s because map technology is enabled via GPS (satellite technology), which is useless at picking up phone frequencies from within buildings.

This can be a problem for large office environments: clients arrive and immediately get lost in a maze of floors and corridors; they arrive at the meeting late and flustered, without any time to set up their laptop correctly. The result is needless stress and ramshackle presentations.

Fortunately, solutions to the problem have already been developed. Most use Bluetooth beacons positioned around an office interior to ping a user’s mobile device, allowing an app to pinpoint their location to within a few feet.

These beacons are becoming steadily cheaper and more reliable, making them a cost-effective solution for large and complex indoor environments, such as offices. That said, every environment has its own peculiarities and technical challenges, and to be successful indoor navigation really requires expert consultancy rather than a DIY approach.

BuzzStreets is already working on a number of pilot projects with hospitals, offices and stadiums to iron out their kinks, while Google offers DIY indoor mapping without navigation features.

In the very near future, these technologies will be combined to provide a quick and simple solution for offices of any size, after which the whole world will be navigable – indoors and out.

Augmented reality
Indoor navigation isn’t just about getting people from A to B. It can also be used to trigger events, such as pop-up videos and other information.

Some businesses already display promotional information on screens dotted around their building. In the future, these could be a lot more immersive, allowing the client to select the information they are interested in and save videos to view later on. They could even provide a visual demonstration of what you do and what makes you better than your competition.

BuzzStreets is currently exploring how augmented reality (AR) can offer users a richer, more immersive environment to explore.

When hands-free, wearable devices become mainstream, this futuristic vision will become a reality. Until then, we will still need to use our smartphones and tablets as our window to this world.

The power of data
Data has become increasingly important – and valuable. It drives decisions and precipitates change. This applies equally to anonymous navigation data. With a global population of over 7,000,000,000 and rising, the world can’t wait for the results of a five-year trial before making important changes. Gathering data in real-time allows us to put our theories to the test, develop new models and make useful changes quickly and accurately.

It provides answers to revealing questions such as: How do people move around the office? What route do they take to the train station? Where is footfall highest? Why are people visiting your office in the first place? Where do staff tend to congregate? Are certain spaces underused?

In this way, data enables businesses to optimise their environments to improve the user experience, save money and change our lives.

The same approach can be applied to inanimate objects, such as laptops and tablets. If you need a piece of technology, but it’s not where it should be, location data can help you track it down. Perhaps you find that some equipment is regularly being transported long distances around your office, in which case would it save time and money to buy a second machine?

Joao Fernandes
Joao Fernandes

There are almost infinite ways in which the data gathered by navigation software can be used. The only limit is our imagination.

About the Author
João Fernandes is the Founder and CEO of BuzzStreets, a B2B navigation and location-based services solution. It combines indoor and outdoor navigation with technologies such as augmented reality and proximity-triggered offers to create a bespoke solution for customer engagement in shopping malls, stadiums, hospitals, airports and offices. The analytics the solution provides can also be invaluable in improving building efficiency and keeping track of vital equipment.

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2018